10 Tips to Reduce iPhone & iPad Personal Hotspot Data Usage
Personal Hotspot is one of the best features of an iPhone and iPad, allowing you to share the devices 3G or 4G LTE internet connection with up to five other connected devices through wi-fi, be them Macs, iPads, iPods, or PC’s. Personal Hotspot may be a mobile users and telecommuters dream, but tethering an internet connection can also eat through the expensive hotspot data plans extremely fast. Avoid overage charges and reduce overall data consumption when tethering with these helpful tips:
1) Monitor Data Usage on iPhone or iPad
The first thing you’ll want to do is keep an eye on how much data you’re using. The easiest way to do this is directly on the iOS device that is sharing it’s internet connection through Personal Hotspot:
- Open Settings and tap on “General”, then tap on “Usage”
- Scroll down and tap on “Cellular Usage” and look for “Cellular Network Data” sent and received, keep a note of this, or better yet, tap on “Reset Statistics” at the start of a new tethering session so you can monitor data use per hotspot session
You can also check data usage through AT&T and Verizon, though they don’t seem to update as often so they might not be the most reliable method to watch data.
2) Monitor Data & Network Usage on a Mac
Use a free desktop based bandwidth monitor like SurplusMeter, it sits in your Mac menu bar and keeps an eye on data use for you. Use this in combination with watching data usage directly on the iOS device for best results, as there may be some discrepancies and it’s always better to err on the side of caution with Personal Hotspot to avoid an overage fee.
3) Quit or Disable Desktop Apps with Push Notifications
OS X Mail checks for emails constantly in the background, quit it when the app isn’t in use. Mac OS X Menubar apps like Gmail Notifier and Facebook Notifier ping their servers constantly to look for updates. Quit these apps while using the iOS Hotspot. If it’s getting updates and it’s not 100% necessary for the work at hand, quit the app or at least disable or delay the updating to consume less data.
4) Turn Off iCloud and Dropbox Syncing
Temporarily disable cloud syncing apps like Dropbox and iCloud, or else they will continue syncing changes to their respective servers, slowly whittling away your allocated cellular data plan. You can pause syncing from Dropbox by pulling down the Dropbox menu and selection the “Pause Syncing” option, and to turn off iCloud syncing features:
- Open System Preferences and click on iCloud
- Uncheck all boxes next to all iCloud choices
Just remember to restore these options once you’re back on a normal wifi network.
5) Disable Mac OS X Software Update Automatic Downloads
Keeping software up to date is a great general maintenance tip, but disable it when you’re not on a network with plenty of bandwidth:
- Open System Preferences and click on “Software Update”
- Uncheck the box next to “Download updates automatically”
You can also go a step further and disable the scheduled update checks completely at the same option screen.
6) Disable Chrome and Firefox Automatic Updates
Chrome and Firefox release updates often and both apps will automatically download and update themselves in the background. While convenient on a regular internet connection, these can blow 20MB to 100MB of data easily, disable those automatic app updates for your web browser and you will certainly save some bandwidth.
7) Listen to Music from Local iTunes Library Rather than Pandora, Spotify, or Streaming Services
Avoid streaming music services while using Wi-Fi Hotspot and instead listen to your local iTunes music library. If you have a MacBook Air with limited disk space and don’t have much of a music library on there, just connect your iPhone to the Mac and play music from that through iTunes instead. Streaming audio is a bandwidth hog, avoid it as much as you can.
8 ) Watch Non-HD Video and Movies
HD video may look leaps and bounds better, but it consumes so much bandwidth that if you’re not careful you can blow through a monthly data plan after watching a single movie or two. Ideally you’ll avoid watching video on a hotspot connection entirely, but if you absolutely must watch something, go for the low-definition version and save hundreds of MB of data. You can usually change from HD to SD directly on a YouTube or Vimeo video page or embed, and you can choose to watch lower quality video through apps like iTunes too.
9) Hold Off on Downloads & Streaming
Downloading apps, files, or streaming anything uses tons of data, get in the habit of holding off on things that are not absolutely necessary. Have a new app you want to download? Wait until you’re on wi-fi. Want to watch a new episode of your favorite show from the ABC or PBS app? Wait until you’re on a less restricted wifi connection. Avoid downloading updates through the Mac App Store and Steam too.
10) Use a Data Compression and Monitoring App
Onavo is a data compression app that runs in the background on an iPhone, it is currently for AT&T iPhones only, but it claims it can double or triple the amount of data you can transfer through it’s effective compression. You will likely notice degraded image and audio quality while using the app, and currently no streaming VoIP or video services work, but if you don’t mind that it could help reduce data use. Onavo is free on the App Store for iPhone.
Reminder: Re-Enable Settings When Back on Normal Wi-Fi
When you return to a regular high network, remember to re-enable all the settings, syncing services, updates, and other features you disabled while on the road with Personal Hotspot, or else you may find your apps versions lagging behind and you could miss out on some essential security updates.
- For Mac OS X, monitor network connections with Private Eye
- Watch open network connections with a GeekTool script
- List all open internet connections with lsof
- Use an Ad Blocking plugin for your web browser of choice
- Use RSS reader apps to strip down web content
Have any tips to reduce bandwidth? Let us know in the comments!